Humans might deal with certain difficulties when using an item they haven't seen yet. However, in the case of an extra body part that is expected to function like a real one, a robotics study reveals that our brains can easily adapt to operating the mechanical "third thumb." This will give ease to people in doing tasks such as stirring a juice or arranging blocks of wood.
The latest research which incorporates both concepts of robotics and neuroscience takes the brain into account through neural scans which shows the activities made by the "third thumb."
After some time, the artificial robotic thumb connected to a person's hand has completely embraced its ability--the same way that the human body used to do.
This experiment gives credit to the capability of our brain to integrate with the prosthetics and robotic tools--something that the researchers see as a good opportunity to deeply understand the impact of modern methods on the central part of the nervous system.
Artificial 'Third Thumb' Can Naturally Be a Part of a Human Body
According to the University College London's (UCL) designer, Dani Clode who created the "third thumb," the study will tell the people that they could fully use (and control) an augmentation device without thinking.
Clode added that when people get used to utilizing an artificial robotic thumb, they would quickly demonstrate several hand gestures in the most natural way possible. In short, the once uninvited part of the hand will finally become an official part of a human body for a moment.
According to Science Alert, the 3D-generated thumb could be wirelessly manipulated by the pressure exerted from the big toes, in addition to its two-degree movement. In the experiment, 20 participants joined for the research. These people are instructed to obtain the extra "third" thumb for five days: six hours daily.
This also covers those tasks that they accomplished during the training and the typical household chores.
Specifically, the researchers said that the requested activities emphasize the coordination, dexterity, and motor control of the hand when consciously using the third thumb. The use of the fMRI scanner will be later discussed.
Regardless of whether the participants were blindfolded or distracted, the experts discovered that they still have consistent control over the augmented device.
Before and after the experiment involving the third thumb, some involved individuals have reportedly undergone scanning using the fMRI scanner. In the process, the artificial robotic part was excluded--and only those real fingers were analyzed. As a control, the researchers made a comparison between a hand with a third thumb and the other one without it.
Could This Be a Part of Human Evolution?
According to UCL's neuroscientist, Tamar Makin, the evolution among humans has not yet tackled any discovery about having an extra part of the body. The recent research has exposed the unexpected to the experts--that a human brain has an adaptive ability to mimic the actual biological movement of the body.
As for our part, we often feel a different texture when something new to our body is attached. This led the scientists to create a comparative approach in the presentation of a pianist's fingers. The long-term routine has made a presentation to the brain to the point of having less distinction to other body parts.
"Body augmentation is a growing field aimed at extending our physical abilities, yet we lack a clear understanding of how our brains can adapt to it. By studying people using Dani's cleverly designed Third Thumb, we sought to answer key questions around whether the human brain can support an extra body part, and how the technology might impact our brain," Makin mentioned via IFL Science.
To know more about the study entitled "Robotic hand augmentation drives changes in neural body representation," visit Science Robotics journal.
Related Article: MIT robotic hand gives users two extra fingers
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Written by Joseph Henry